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The night after Iwaizumi found his soulmate, Oikawa cried himself to sleep.

The next morning, he stared up at the blurry ceiling of his borrowed bedroom and took a few deep breaths. This was happening. He would have to cope with the explosive death of the hope he had been daring to cultivate. It had been stupid of him to think they could maybe be… that is, if he had been Iwa-chan’s soulmate, he should have known it by now. Deep down Oikawa must have known that it had to be someone else. And yet. And yet…

Soulmates were complicated things. There were hundreds, even thousands, of different soulmate marks. They ranged from the ever popular ‘first words’ to the convenient ‘timers’ to the ‘colorizers’. Sometimes people knew who their soulmate was from the moment they meet, but sometimes it took a little longer. Sometimes it took months to stumble across the link that would mark two people as soulmates.

Was it so much to think-- to hope-- that sometimes it took years? Neither Oikawa nor Hajime had been born with any physical sign of their soulmate. Wasn’t it reasonable to believe that one day something would happen that would mark them as each other’s?

Apparently so.

He had never hated the words ‘Thank you, and you are a very dependable spiker' as much as he did reading them-- red and raw-- off Iwa-chan’s back. (He felt like he was being mocked. Words that he must have said to Iwa-chan a million times over, but all in vain. It didn’t help that Iwa-chan words of ‘You’ll be first string setter in no time’ proceeded them. It wasn’t fair. That could have been Oikawa, it could have been).

Looking back, he should have known. It was stupid. It was his own fault for hoping. His own fault for thinking even for a moment that he and Iwa-chan might...

Oikawa swallowed a sob and snapped around so that he could growl into the pillow. He held the sheets bunched up tight to his chest. He wondered bitterly if Iwa-chan would give the bed he was sleeping in to him as soon as Oikawa went back home. Or maybe they wouldn’t even bother. Iwa-chan’s bed was a few steps away; they could skip straight to sharing.

Oikawa stuck out his tongue in disgust but only succeeded in making his mouth taste like salt and laundry detergent.

It wasn’t fair.

He knew no one else would ever compliment Iwa-chan’s serious, but also somewhat restless, personality the same way Oikawa did. Oikawa knew he would never feel this comfortable letting someone else see all his rampant insecurities. He knew he would never love anyone else this much. So why…?

Oikawa remembered the end of their second year of high school. He remembered that moment of grief and high tension in the privacy of his bedroom where they had put their hands on each other’s cheeks and Hajime had leaned in and... Would Iwa-chan look at him that way now?

It wasn’t fair.

All Oikawa had wanted was to see Iwa-chan’s new volleyball courts. He hadn’t signed up to watch his own heart shatter. He hadn’t signed up to watch himself lose Iwa-chan; especially not to someone with whom he was a personality away from being the same person. It felt like the universe was telling him he and Iwa-chan were incompatible in a way that Oikawa couldn't fix. His superficial traits were fine, but his personality-- his own fundamental being-- had lost him Iwa-chan. He hadn’t signed up for all that. He hadn’t signed up for people to no longer think of Oikawa when they thought of Iwa-chan’s gorgeous gifted setter.

He hadn’t signed up for Akaashi Keiji.

He hated Akaashi Keiji.

He hated that Akaashi Keiji was tall (only a centimeter away from Oikawa and with room to grow). He hated that Akaashi Keiji was a setter (and a good one, at that). He hated that Akaashi Keiji was beautiful (Oikawa had spent the time before bed examining the mirror trying to, objectively, decide who was prettier. In the end, he was forced to admit it was all a matter of taste, and fate had made Iwa-chan’s clear).

He hated that Akaashi Keiji was Iwaizumi Hajime’s soulmate (Because he hated that he and Akaashi Keiji were a personality away from being the same person. He hated that he couldn’t tell himself that Iwa-chan’s soulmate wasn’t meant to be a man, or pretty, or taller than him, or even that they weren't meant to be athletic. Oikawa hated that he could no longer deny that, to Iwa-chan, for Iwa-chan, Oikawa’s fundamental personality was… lacking.)

“Oi! I’m heading off to practice. Don’t burn down my apartment while I’m gone! You’ll have to explain it to my roommates!” Iwa-chan shouted through the door. He didn’t sound any different than usual, and for some reason that eased some of the hurt in Oikawa’s chest. But Iwa-chan was going to practice… practice where Akaashi Keiji (who Iwa-chan had spent the whole night talking to, only glancing at Oikawa) was.

“Wait!” Oikawa ignored the shiver that ran through his body as his bare feet hit the cold floor of his borrowed room. “I’ll go watch!”

“Wha--” Oikawa cut off Iwa-chan’s response by throwing open the door and rushing straight past him in a dive to the bathroom. Oikawa never spent less than half an hour styling his hair, but drastic times called for drastic measures.

“Oikawa, it’s just a normal morning practice, you don’t have to--”

“But Iwa-chan! What kind of best friend would I be if I didn’t support you in front of your team!” Half the sentence came out gurgled from the toothbrush Oikawa stuck in his mouth, but the loud sigh and the thump of a bag that traveled through the door told him he had communicated his point.

“A normal one?... Ugh. I’m giving you five minutes and then I’m leaving without you.”

Oikawa yelped and brushed faster. He didn’t want to imagine what he looked like when he stumbled back to the room to shrug on some clothes. His hair was only sparingly teased. He didn’t even take the time to pop in his contacts, instead sliding his glasses over the bridge of his nose. When Oikawa made it to the front door after a total of fifteen minutes, Iwa-chan was still there looking annoyed but not leaving. It made something warm crawl through Oikawa.

“Let’s go, Iwa-chan~!”

Iwa-chan blinked at him twice. Without thinking about it, Oikawa reached his hand up to fix his hair some more since it was probably awful and maybe it would be worth it to go back for the contacts and scrub his face and put some concealer under his eyes... What if he was oily and gross and his eyes were still irritated from crying and--?

“Why the hell do you always take years to get ready in the morning if you could just--” Iwa-chan cut off both his words and the vague gesture he was making with his hand towards Oikawa. “Nevermind.” He about-faced to the door and started out without giving Oikawa another look.

His ears were a little red though.

That warm feeling in Oikawa's chest escalated.

Fifteen minutes later, when they were in the gymnasium and Iwa-chan shoved Oikawa towards the stands to made a beeline for his new pretty setter, the warmth vanished.

Akaashi and Iwa-chan couldn't spend much time together once practice started, much to Oikawa's grim satisfaction (he was maybe starting to see why Iwa-chan so often unfairly accused him of sometimes having a less than angelic personality). Iwa-chan was second string now, and Akaashi had only recently joined. They didn't practice with each other and they were often on separate courts even for drills. And yet... Oikawa was far from satisfied. Every break the two found a way to stand close, looking content as they absorbed each other’s company. Oikawa couldn't say much about Akaashi, who had a face that showed as much emotion as a brick wall (who would even like that? Clearly he had dodged a bullet since Iwa-chan had such bad taste), but he knew that being with Akaashi made Iwa-chan happy. There was something relaxed in Iwa-chan's stance when he stood next to his new soulmate.

Oikawa couldn’t help but note how different it was from when he stood next to Iwa-chan. It was clear Akaashi and Iwa-chan were congruent rather than complimentary soulmates. Rather than fitting into each other’s empty spaces, they overlapped and reinforced each other's strengths. Most soulmates were classified as congruent, so it shouldn't have surprised Oikawa, but… as clearly as Iwa-chan and Akaashi were congruent, Iwa-chan and Oikawa would have been complimentary. Their friendship was complimentary. It was explosive and quiet in turn, always filling in each other’s silences. But between Akaashi and Iwa-chan there was no noise. Akaashi didn’t bombard Iwa-chan with ‘trivial’ (excuse me, Iwa-chan, but all his questions were of utmost immediate importance, okay?) questions. Iwa-chan never rolled his eyes or threw volleyballs at Akaashi.

… was that what Iwa-chan preferred? Had all Oikawa’s little quirks been annoyances that Iwa-chan put up with for the sake of their friendship? Oikawa had thought… well, Oikawa was good at reading people, double so for Iwa-chan. He had thought, maybe, that Iwa-chan had been secretly fond of all those things. That he had liked them. That they had entertained him.

Oikawa wished Iwa-chan would look more bored.

He knew he wasn't being fair. This was Iwa-chan's soulmate. What kind of person could he be that he wanted to make his best friend stop talking to their soulmate? What kind of person would want them to have a disagreement, or to be awkward around each other, or to show any obvious signs of their incompatibility? What kind of person would look for anything that would make Iwa-chan decide that the universe had made a mistake and Akaashi Keiji wasn't actually the one for him?

A person a lot like Oikawa, apparently.

It didn't matter, though, because there was nothing. They got along great, from what Oikawa could tell from his spot watching their backs in the stands. He tightened his arms against his legs where he had bunched them up on the seat. It hurt, but it wasn't like he could go down there and demand Iwa-chan stop speaking with his soulmate. Even Oikawa could recognize, through the hurt throbbing in his chest, that it would be a terrible thing to do; and despite what Iwa-chan thought, he wasn’t that shitty of a person… or at the very least, not that shitty of a friend… not to Iwa-chan.

After a somehow much shorter and a much longer amount of time than Oikawa felt like it had been, practice ended. He shuffled his way outside to meet up again with Iwa-chan as he exited the locker room. As he walked down the steps, Oikawa practiced contorting his face into a perfect relaxed smile. He was determined not to let Akaashi Keiji see him at anything less than one-hundred percent. The least he could do was milk some jealousy out of that stoic face. Being taken as a threat might make Oikawa feel better.

"Oh, Iwa-chan!" he called as he saddled over to his friend's side, interrupting his conversation with Akaashi as they walked out... together. Iwa-chan rolled his eyes. Even though Oikawa knew it was playful (or did he?), it still caused something painful in his chest.

"Akaashi, you remember Oikawa, from yesterday,"

Akaashi nodded, his stoic expression not even bothering to twitch at the arm Oikawa had thrown over Iwa-chan’s shoulder. Oikawa felt a different sort of fiery heat in his gut. He should have brought his contacts with him to change while Iwa-chan practiced. Oikawa had used the cute 'nerd chic' look to his advantage before, but for this, he would have preferred to dazzle with the force of a physical blow. (Would it even work against someone as comparably stunning as Akaashi Keiji, with his thick eyelashes and natural ‘come-hither’ expression? Would he look at Oikawa and see an equal?).

"It would be difficult to forget The Grand King."

Oikawa was momentarily thrown from his not-jealous plotting. He blinked at Akaashi. Iwa-chan chuckled with a smile, "You’ve meet Karasuno's number ten?"

Akaashi nodded.

"Our schools held training camps together in my second and third year. My... Bokuto-san, my ace, grew attached to Hinata-kun, number ten."

As if Oikawa needed more reason to dislike Akaashi. Akaashi's second year would have been Oikawa's last. Anyone who trained with Karasuno was no friend of his.

"Yes, well, Iwa-chan and I head home down this road so--"

"Uh, actually, Oikawa, Akaashi and I were going to get some coffee."

Oikawa stiffened. That pretty much settled it. That was it, it was starting. This was real. Iwa-chan had found his real soulmate and now Oikawa was destined to be forever second string in his best friend's life.

“Oh!” Oikawa put on his brightest smile. Iwa-chan frowned at him.

“You can come too,” he offered. It embarrassed Oikawa that his disappointment had been so obvious. Would Iwa-chan put two and two together? He hoped not. The only thing more pathetic than being in love with his soulmated best friend would be if said best friend knew about it. At least this way Oikawa could pretend to have some dignity left.

“Oh, I wouldn’t want to interrupt your date~” Oikawa winked and Iwa-chan scowled at him.

“It’s not a date, Shittykawa,”

“Iwaizumi-san is right. Please join us, Oikawa-san. I would like to get to know the both of you better,” Akaashi added.

The offer tempted Oikawa. If he was there, nothing could progress. It wasn’t below him-- as his involvement in Iwa-chan’s other attempts at relationships in high school proved-- but… this was his soulmate. Oikawa could convince himself that Iwa-chan's other relationships weren’t right for him (and that was the excuse he had given himself long before he recognized his own feelings). That wasn’t the case here. There would be no justification for ruining this for Iwa-chan (if he even could, he wasn’t that egotistical); no justification for inserting himself into a relationship that was never meant to be his.

“Oh, it’s okay, Aka-chan.” The displeasure that crossed Akaashi’s face from his new (permanent) nickname filled Oikawa with satisfaction.

“Please don’t call me--”

“--I have things to get done before I go back to school. Have fun!” He gave his flirtiest wink and wave and was less pleased when he saw displeasure cross Iwa-chan’s face. But that disapproval was nothing new. How could he have ever thought they were made for each other?

A few days later, Oikawa went to his own school on the other side of the district and expected that to be the end of things. He wondered how long it would be before contact with Iwa-chan went from every week to every month to teetering off altogether.

Chapter Text

“... got so shitfaced he thought Kaori-san was his mother for some reason. So me and Akaashi had to carry him home. He’s an even bigger lightweight than you,”

“Lies! I am not a lightweight!” Oikawa complained to his computer screen, bright with Iwa-chan’s slightly pixelated face.

One month had passed, then two, and Oikawa’s confusion mounted with each passing day.

Nothing… nothing changed. Sure, Iwa-chan talked about Akaashi a ton-- Oikawa knew more than he ever wanted to about Akaashi and his single child rearing and his surprising appetite and his introverted qualities-- but the revolution didn't happen. Iwa-chan and Oikawa still video-chatted at least once a week. They texted all the time. The two of them still listened to each other’s problems and shared stories about their college lives. Nothing changed.

“Yes, you fucking are.” Oikawa stuck out his lower lip and crossed his arms. Iwaizumi sighed. “Oi, stop pouting. It’s the truth and you know it,”

“Hmp. It looks that way because my drinks aren’t wheat water with two-percent alcohol content,”

“No, they’re generally pink, have umbrellas in them, and were mooched off someone else.”

Oikawa stuck out his tongue. Iwaizumi rolled his eyes while his lips twitched. Oikawa once again wished they were together in person. He knew the computer screen failed to capture the warmth in Iwaizumi's smile as he looked at Oikawa.

Insanity drew closer to Oikawa with each passing day of this. He wished he at least knew if Akaashi and Iwa-chan-chan were officially dating yet. For all that Iwa-chan talked about Akaashi, he never mentioned anything like that. But it had been months, they must be together by now?

A noise echoed from one of the rooms down the hall as one of his roommates shuffled out of the bathroom. Oikawa shifted onto his knees to look for his earbuds. Iwaizumi watched him for a second.

“How’s your knee? You better not be overworking it, you asshole,”

“I’m not!” Oikawa snapped back to the screen. He must have left his earbuds in his backpack.

"Uh-huh,”

“It’s true!... Sometimes I’m even home before midnight,”

“Oikawa!”

“I’m joking, I’m joking. Can’t you take a joke, Iwa-chan?”

“Shut up. You’re doing your stretches? And relaxing the muscle?”

“I’m taking care of it. You’re such a mom.” The only positive to Iwaizumi not physically being with Oikawa was that Oikawa could get away with stuff like that.

“What?!”

Oikawa winked. And stuff like that.

“It’s okay. I know Iwa-chan likes to freet about me. It’s because he cares.” He already knew Iwaizumi's reply to his teasing:

‘Ya right, Shittykawa’

“Ya, I do.” Iwaizumi's vibrant eyes looked straight into Oikawa. The screen dulled the unique interplay between gray, green, and brown that made up the iris. It failed to dull the piercing sincerity of the look. Iwaizumi's entire face softened into something Oikawa didn't know how to handle. That, combined with the suddenness of the confession, left Oikawa’s own face burning. He tried for a laugh.

“Ha, obviously~.” He busied his eyes with shifting his laptop back into a comfortable position, hyperaware of Iwaizumi’s gaze.

“... listen, Oikawa--”

Maybe Iwaizumi hadn't said anything before now because he knew. Maybe he had figured out that Oikawa still felt the way they had in high school and was trying to spare him. The thought of it made Oikawa want to die of embarrassment. The mortification crept up his neck with the burning sensation.

It didn't sound like something Iwaizumi would do. Iwaizumi had always been either blunt or easy to interpret past his angry facade. Still, the idea of Iwaizumi proving him right flooded Oikawa with panic.

Footsteps echoed down the hall and Oikawa ran with the excuse.

“-- My roommate's coming and I can’t find my earbuds. Talk to you later, Iwa-chan?”

“What? Wait--” Oikawa ended the call and took a deep breath. Oikawa closed his laptop and flopped onto the couch as his roommate walked into the common area.

“Everything’s just absolutely terrible, Yuuji-chan!” Yuuji-chan, the heartless traitor, rolled his eyes. Oikawa’s face buried in the couch cushions prevented him from seeing it, but he felt it for sure. “You’re so mean, Yuuji-chan! Making fun of my pain!”

“Oikkun, babe. He met his soulmate. I think you’re supposed to be happy for him.” Oikawa wrinkled his nose and peaked up.

“Don’t call me that.”

Terushima's unimpressed look conveyed how hypocritical he found Oikawa's request. Oikawa sighed and shifted his head so he was eyeing Terushima from above the cushion.

His youngest roommate was using the living room mirror to examine his tongue-- pulling on it and everything-- like some sort of heathen.

“We have a bathroom, you know,” Oikawa said. Terushima nodded.

“The light over the sink is out,”

“What, since when?!”

“Ten minutes ago. You would have noticed if it was any earlier, after all,”

“Okay, first of all, don’t sit here and pretend you spend any less time in front of a mirror. Second of all, did you call maintenance?”

Terushima locked his eyes with Oikawa's through his reflection and then rolled them. He went back to shifting his bleached hair to one side to better frame its undercut. Oikawa flipped over onto his back, one arm hanging off the sofa, and groaned.

“Ugh, why did I agree to live with you?”

“Because I'm a good time.” Terushima winked. “Also, I listen to you go on about your boyfriend, so that's a plus!”

“Mean! Mean! You know he’s not my boyfriend! That’s the problem!”

“Ya, for bullshit reasons,”

“Bullshit reasons like him having a soulmate?”

“Yup,”

“What am I supposed to do? I’m not about to steal him away from his soulmate! Oikawa-san is no homewrecker!”

“And here I heard such fun things about you, too,”

“You are not helpful. Not helpful at all,”

“You want advice? ... Have you considered being a side-hoe?”

Oikawa shrieked, sat up, and threw his cushion at Terushima who had turned around to make his point. It hit him straight on. “How dare you! I am quality! I am not a side-hoe, I’m--”

“The main hoe?”

“Shut up!”

“Hey, don’t diss it. It’s my kind of gig.” Terushima walked over and sprawled next to Oikawa on the couch, ruffling through his bag.

“What? Seriously? With your soulmate? But don’t you want… I don’t know… something special? Something that can't be taken away, that’s… yours?”

Terushima wrinkled his nose.

“That’s my problem with it. If they’re ‘mine’ then I’m also ‘theirs.’ I hate the idea. Soulmate or not, I don’t belong to anyone,”

“It’s not literal like that,”

“I know, but… I wouldn’t want to be tied down like that, not just to one person… but to one… way of life, I guess?”

“But don’t you think your soulmate would compliment that? Someone as averse to settling down? You can change lifestyles together,”

“And she or he will always be there? Always together?” Terushima stuck out his tongue in disgust. “I don’t want that, Oikkun. I’d much rather my soulmate already had someone else so I wouldn't have to feel obligated to them. I’d love it if my soulmate and that ‘someone else’ didn’t mind if my soulmate and I had occasional sex. But even if they weren’t okay with it I’d still rather not be their one and only,”

“But you still want to meet them? I mean, you want to sleep with them? Why?”

Terushima shrugged.

“The connection, I guess. They’re supposed to be perfect for me, right? I’m not against a home base. Somewhere to go where someone would always be happy to see me. Maybe somewhere to go when I get...” There was something heavy about Terushima's pause, but he continued before Oikawa could say anything. “Nevermind. Also, getting a tongue piercing and some tattoos would be awesome!”

“Are you waiting for your soulmate’s permission?” Some people did that, but after what Terushima had said…

“Nope! What do you take me for? But….” Terushima found a pocket on the inside of his bag and took out what looked to be a very thick blue pen. He placed the part where the ballpoint would go against the pad of his pointer finger. Right before he clicked the top, Oikawa realized it wasn’t a pen. It was one of those needles like diabetic people used to prick their fingers. Terushima was not diabetic.

“Wait--”

Terushima pressed down with a loud click.

“Yuuji-chan!”

“Haha, relax. Look.”

Oikawa looked. There was a slight red mark on the tip of Terushima’s finger now, but nothing else. He looked back up at Terushima’s annoyed eyes.

“Only my soulmate can draw blood. Or that’s what we’re guessing anyway…. Me and my doctor, that is. I mean, not being able to break skin is inconvenient for other reasons, but mostly the tongue ring. It’s really not cool! To be fair, there are advantages, too.” He slid the needle back onto his backpack. Oikawa could only guess he carried it around for this exact purpose. Oikawa wondered how many people he had tested it on.

“So you want to meet your soulmate so you can get a tongue piercing. And you want them to already be in a relationship so they won’t expect too much of you?”

“Pretty much. I guess they wouldn’t have to be if they’re like me about it, but we still wouldn’t be together. That’s my ideal soulmate.”

Oikawa took a moment to absorb all that.

“That… that sounds… lonely,”

Terushima laughed, “You know, for someone who has so many friends, you sure think a lot of things are lonely! I’d have other friends, and I’d talk to them all the time! I could just never be with one person for that long all at once.” His eyes dug into Oikawa with a question in them. When he finally spoke it, it wasn't what Oikawa had expected. “Do you have plans for tonight? Come with me to a house party! Get laid, cut the umbilical cord with your Iwa-chan!” He popped up from the sofa and grabbed Oikawa’s wrists, dragging Oikawa's body foot above the couch with no input from Oikawa's limbs.

“I don’t know…” Oikawa whined, lolling his head backward, “I don’t really like house parties...”

“I know they can be lame sometimes, but this one will be fun, promise! Good booze,”

“We’re too young,”

“Oh my god. You can’t be more than a few months away.” Three to be exact.

“And you must be more than a year,”

“Less than, actually. April birthday. But man, no one would guess you’re such a goodie-two-shoes. And with your reputation…” Terushima pouted.

“Yuuji-chaaaaaan… Oph! Owwwww!” Oikawa groaned as Terushima let go of his wrists and he fell backward onto the couch. “Meeeeeeeaan,” he slumped to the side, rolling onto his stomach.

“I’m leaving. Be ready for the party by ten thirty… eleven... eleven thirty. Make it eleven thirty,”

Oikawa sighed and shifted on the couch. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Terushima’s eyes sweep up and down his form. It lied stretched to its advantage over the cushions with his shirt pulled up his back and sweatpants low on his hips. Oikawa smirked to himself as Terushima licked his lip.

“God, you’re so hot... too bad you’re so high-maintenance,”

“Hey!” Oikawa sat up and crossed his arms, “There’s nothing wrong with taking good care of yourself! It’s no business of yours, I’ll have you know,”

“I spent ten minutes I needed to get to class taking your mind off two relationships that don’t even exist,”

“Two?!”

“You and your Iwa-chan, and your Iwa-chan and his soulmate,”

“I’m sensitive!”

“You’re a main hoe. You admitted to it. I don’t have time for that sort of commitment,”

“Well excuse me, it wasn’t like I was propositioning you!” He looked away with a huff.

“Don’t pretend you didn’t lie that way on purpose.” Oikawa blushed.

“I’ve got it. You’re not a side hoe or a main hoe. You, Oikawa Tooru, are an attention whore," Terushima laughed, slinging his bag over his shoulder as he opened the front door.

“Yuuji-chan!” Oikawa pouted harder. The laugh continued as the door shut. Oikawa groaned and laid back down.

A house party, huh?

Chapter Text

To be clear, Oikawa didn't have 'bad ideas.' Once or twice he had 'less than optimal' ones, is all. Going to the party? Less than optimal idea.

He should have known. He had only meet Terushima at the beginning of the term and he already knew better than to trust his judgment... or he thought he did, anyway. The guy made everything into a party. Terushima didn’t understand how drinks and free rooms (and maybe some bongs, as a bonus) could fail to entertain anyone. Remembering that made it easy for Oikawa to place the blame for the detachment he felt from the loud music and the lively atmosphere on Terushima's conscience instead of his own. He ignored that every time he tried to flirt he lost the rhythm of the conversation, that even normal conversation and some light dancing made him feel like a draining battery.

Oikawa talked and he laughed and he drank, but still found himself wrangling an empty barstool near the kitchen countertop and parking himself there for the rest of the night.

On the barstool next to him, a couple sat one on the other's lap. The soft pink light pulsing from underneath their skin, framed by the sweetheart necklines of their blouses, announced their soulmate bond to the world.

Oikawa sniffed and looked away. Show-offs. He took another sip of his drink. Terushima had been right about there being alcohol, but the modifier of ‘good’ was debatable. Oikawa wasn't sure it even qualified as consumable (he wasn’t even certain it wasn’t lighter fluid)-- he knocked back the rest of the cup.

Going home sounded best about now, but he couldn’t leave Terushima, and Terushima had… disappeared a little while back. Going looking didn’t sound like a good time.

Out of the corner of his eye, Oikawa could see the soulmates sucking face. He happened to casually (super duper casually) notice that their skin tones matched those of him and Iwa-chan. Then he realized he had thought that and hated that he had. He looked again.

Despite the enthusiasm of their making-out, the smaller woman with the light copper undertoned makore skin-tone (he spent a lot of time thinking up words to describe Iwa-chan, sue him) ran a gentle hand through the hair of the porcelain-skinned (he had a delicate composure, okay?!) woman whose lap she was sitting on. There the similarities ended, but Oikawa couldn’t help but imagine it. What if he and Iwa-chan’s little hearts had started to glow when they first touched as infants? It would be perfect for them. Linked from birth... ( he worked to ignore the part of him repelled by the idea, that knew he wouldn't have stood for forces unknown laying out his life for him). Oikawa sighed and rested his head on his crossed arms.

Now that Iwa-chan had bonded, though, Oikawa wondered with more thought put into it than ever what his own mark looked like. Would his heart start glowing when he met his so-called soulmate? He couldn’t imagine something so intimate with someone he couldn’t imagine being in love with, or at least not loving them as much as he was capable. And not to diminish Iwa-chan’s happily-ever-after, but Oikawa had always found words-- the most common indicator-- to be a bit boring. It couldn’t be any sort of timer or colorblindness, and he had never noticed injuries or writings on his skin that weren’t his own. They could have a shared language only they could speak...

What did it matter, though? It wasn’t Iwa-chan. It wasn’t Iwa-chan.

It wasn’t Iwa-chan…

“It's not fair, Iwa-chan! We could have done it this year, we could have...” Oikawa hit his hands against Iwa-chan's shoulders as his breath hitched. The weak clap, in his drained state, managed to get Iwa-chan's legs to give. Oikawa's weight shifting forward as he bowed his head didn't help, and they soon found themselves kneeling on the floor of Oikawa's bedroom, centimeters shy of slotting their knees between each other's.

"I know." Iwa-chan's hands grabbed at the sleeves of Oikawa's Aoba Johsai jacket. "I fucking know." His red-rimmed eyes and wet cheeks betrayed the truth behind his angry tone. The bite mark on his lower lip from his own teeth betrayed the intensity of the feeling. Oikawa hated seeing that look on Iwa-chan's face. He sniffled. Their breaths sounded loud in the quiet room. They hadn't bothered to turn on the lights when they stumbled in, and the darkness helped sooth Oikawa's sensitive nerves.

"... I don't care who wins tomorrow. I'm going to hate them both," he grumbled after a few minutes.

“I know that too, crappy guy.” Iwa-chan got out with a strained laugh. Oikawa's mouth managed one of his exaggerated pouts, and Iwa-chan's eyes flickered down to it. They didn't leave it. Oikawa shivered all over, his pulse beating in his lips.

“Name calling's not a good way to set the mood, Iwa-chan,” Oikawa said before he realized it.

“Mood? What mood?!” Iwa-chan jerked backward but didn’t shift his knees at all, choosing only to sit back on his ankles. Oikawa’s cheeks warmed. He hoped the blush wasn’t noticeable past the natural irritated patchy red caused by tears... not that he ugly cried. He was too pretty for that.

“Don't you know a joke when you hear one?”

“Do… do you want there to be a mood?”

Oikawa froze. Was it him, or did that sound… hopeful? He roved his eyes over every dip of Iwa-chan’s face. He thought Iwa-chan shivered under his gaze. Oikawa swallowed and leaned forward. Iwa-chan’s eyes widened, but then he relaxed and let their foreheads rest against each other. Oikawa didn’t think he would ever forget the way Iwa-chan looked at him in that moment: open, vulnerable, and filled with affection.

Before either of them knew it, Oikawa’s hands were on Iwa-chan’s cheeks and Iwa-chan’s hands, rough and blunt, were on Oikawa’s cheeks. They used their new grips to tilt each other's heads upwards. Oikawa could feel Iwa-chan’s, Hajime’s, shallow breaths puff warm against his own lips. Oikawa lowered his eyelids, listening to the rhythm of their intermingling breaths and feeling the soft warmth of Hajime’s hands and forehead against his skin.

“Even though we’re... we're not soulmates?” The words were whispered so low that Oikawa couldn't tell if he heard them so much as he felt them breathed against his face.

Oikawa almost scoffed. Not soulmates.

Maybe not. Maybe they weren’t soulmates according to the universe or whatever, but so what?

“I--” The words caught in Oikawa’s throat. His mother's voice, recalling breaking up with her then-boyfriend in favor of her soulmate, echoed in his head. 'Don't put obstacles in the way of your soulmate, Tooru-chan.' Her voice told him night after night as he settled into bed.

Oikawa felt, at that moment, more familiar with 'obstacles' than he ever wanted to be. More and more he found himself confronted with and observing hurdles of the universe's making. People like Ushiwaka and Tobio who were born with the ability to surpass Oikawa’s hardest work, no matter how much Oikawa wanted to stay on the court.

Oikawa wanted Hajime. He believed he and Hajime both had the spirit and compatibility to be happy together.

But...

If this last game-- and the year before that and the year before that-- had proven anything, it was that sometimes that wasn’t enough. Sometimes you could want something with your entire being and work yourself into the ground to get it, and it could still slip right through your fingers. Sometimes… sometimes dedication wasn’t enough.

Sometimes the universe created geniuses. Sometimes it created the person who would be perfect for your best friend in a way you never could be, regardless of how hard Oikawa would work to be the person best for Hajime.

Hadn’t Oikawa learned anything? It didn’t matter how hard he worked. It never mattered how hard he worked. He couldn't be enough, not for nationals, not for his team, and maybe… probably not for Hajime.

He wouldn’t be able to bare it if Hajime was taken away from him after he had him.

“I…” He looked into Hajime's sharp hazel eyes, dark grey and vulnerable in the low light. The silence built. As Oikawa watched, speechless, hard gray walls went up in those eyes. Finally, after silence enough to say the answer clear as any words could, Hajime looked away. He dropped Oikawa’s cheeks and Oikawa did the same. They shuffled back away from each other.

“Oh,”

“Ha-- Iwa-chan. I just… I want…”

“No, it’s okay. You want your soulmate. I understand.” Oikawa tried to find the words to explain, to make it clear that he didn’t want this separation to be forever. That he didn’t want his soulmate. He wanted Iwa-chan, and he wanted him forever. “No, actually, I lied,” Iwa-chan spat like a knife before Oikawa could speak. “T.V and movies and those things tell me I’m supposed to understand but… I don’t. I… I don’t understand, Oikawa. Would you really rather wait for someone you’ve never met and don’t know anything about than… ?”

“And what happens after the waiting is over, Iwa-chan?” Oikawa challenged. Iwa-chan always did have a problem with thinking things through, that had always been Oikawa’s job.

“Whatever it is, why would it stop us from being together?”

“It’s your soulmate. How could they not?”

“Why? Fate? Destiny? You don’t believe in those things. I know you don't, not with all the work you put into beating ‘naturally talented’ geniuses,”

“That’s different,”

“How? You’ve always believed in yourself above any of that ‘meant to be’ bullshit, so how is this, how are soulmates, any different?”

Iwa-chan was right, of course. Oikawa didn’t believe in fate or destiny. He believed in wanting things and working nonstop to get them and never letting anyone tell you no. But, clearly, his beliefs didn't matter.

He couldn’t explain it, not to Iwa-chan. It wasn’t that it was his heart. He put his heart into volleyball. But volleyball couldn’t leave. No matter how many games he lost, volleyball couldn’t be taken away from him (his knee twinged, but Oikawa dutifully ignored it). Iwa-chan could be taken away. Iwa-chan could leave.

And Iwa-chan… between the two of them, it was always Iwa-chan who wasn’t one-hundred percent sure of what he wanted. Once Oikawa chose something he committed to it with everything he had. Iwa-chan didn’t change his mind often, true, but not because he committed, but because he settled. What if he settled for Oikawa? What if his soulmate came along and he realized he wanted something different? What if he realized Oikawa wasn’t enough?

“It just is,” Oikawa looked at the floor.

“How? Why wait for something that may not be what you want or expect? Why not live in the here and now?”

“It’s always the here and now with you, Iwa-chan.” He didn’t know why he said what he said next, it was true about Iwa-chan, but only with things and hobbies, not about people. Iwa-chan’s loyalty was never a question. Not the way Oikawa made it sound. But maybe he believed it a bit. Maybe he believed that if they did this now, and then Iwa-chan found his soulmate later, he would always regret it. “That’s the problem. You can never commit.”

The room fell into silence once again, this time harsh, angry, even.

Fabric rustled, Iwa-chan’s breath moved from in front of him to above him. Footsteps marched over to Oikawa’s bed and Oikawa heard a bag being thrown over a shoulder followed by the door creaking open.

A distinct awareness that this was it permeated the heavy air. One of them would either say something, or they would never bring this moment, this opportunity, up again. What would they even say? Oikawa wanted a level of commitment Iwa-chan couldn't offer, that no one (only one person) could offer. He knew that, but he couldn't find the mental space to take a risk on anything less.

The door stayed open for at least thirty seconds. A deep inhale came from that direction. Expectancy aired around the room, the silence before noise. Instead of releasing, the breath cut off. The room stayed silent.

The door clicked shut.

Oikawa was alone.

“Oikkun? Oikawa!” Oikawa lifted his heavy head from the warm cradle of his arms, blinking sleep and memories out of his eyes. His numb forearms propped up his sweaty cheek. When had that happened? “Geez, I can’t believe you fell asleep like an old man.”

His fingers were unwound from something and he realized it was the cup they had still been curled around. He squinted. In the dim light, he could see Terushima bring the drink up to his nose to sniff. He put his finger in and licked it, popping his lips twice.

“Doesn’t seem like you’ve been drugged. You’re pretty, you know, gotta be sure,”

Oikawa frowned and blinked a few more times as the world came into focus again. Terushima’s words solidified and gained context enough to make sense.

“That… that’s not funny, Terushima.” Terushima blinked at him twice and a little furrow appeared between his eyebrows.

“Right. Right, sorry.” He put the cup back down and cracked his knuckles one by one. For a second he rocked back on his heels and looked everywhere but Oikawa. Then he breathed and caught Oikawa's attention again, not looking away this time. Instead, he burrowed into Oikawa's eyes, searching out something. “Are you okay, really?” His eyes darted to the cup again.

Oh, Oikawa understood now. The edge of his lips angled upward and his gaze softened as he looked up at Terushima. It was strange having a friend who hid his worry with (bad and inappropriate) humor. He couldn't help but contrast it to Iwa-chan, who used transparent anger, or even Makki and Mattsun who were blunt or dryly sarcastic in turn.

“Yes, I’m fine~. I was resting. Naturally,” He looked towards the barstool. The soulmates had disappeared, but they could have moved to another part of the house. The crowd hadn't dissipated, but instead of dancing people sat around drinking and slurring half words to each other. He looked back to Terushima. “What happened to your nose?”

The newly reddened skin across the bridge of it seemed to be darkening by the second. Oikawa offhand noticed that this meant Terushima could still bruise. Terushima laughed.

“Let’s say things went a bit south, not fun.” His hand came up to shift his hair to one side. Oikawa followed the motion and realized Terushima had a long line of still-red developing hickeys drawing up his neck to the back of his ear. “All good, though. At least they couldn’t give me a nose bleed!”

“Does that really count as breaking skin?” Oikawa asked offhand while shambling out of his seat.

“Never had one before, so I guess! But seriously--” he looked back to a hallway leading to another part of the house, “we should go… now.” Terushima pushed Oikawa forward. Oikawa couldn’t help but laugh a little and in doing so realized he couldn’t have been asleep that long. He still felt a bit detached from reality in a way only alcohol could achieve.

“What time is it anyway?”

“Ummm.” Terushima pulled his phone halfway out of his pocket and checked the screen. “Two-thirty four,”

“Ugh, why did I let you talk me into this?”

“Because--”

“Right, right. Because you’re a good time~ I don’t think ‘they’ would agree.” He winked and Terushima stuck out his tongue.

“Ya, ya. Seriously. Let’s go.” The two of them supported their not inconsiderable weights on each other as they stumbled out of the small house. Terushima hummed some unpredictable tune to himself as they walked. The humid wrapped around Oikawa and he breathed it in with satisfaction. It helped him bat away that memory of him and Iwa-chan in their last year together. Looking back, so many things he could have done or said differently jumped out at him. Still, nothing had been untrue. Nothing changed the fact that they weren't soulmates or that Iwa-chan would be better off with someone who matched him better.

Lost in thought, Oikawa didn't realize they had made it to the stairs of their building until Terushima's wandering hand caught his attention. It slipped down from Oikawa’s shoulder to fiddling with the waistband of Oikawa’s jeans. It could have been a drowsy accident, but when Oikawa looked down at Terushima, Terushima was looking back up at him with a suggestive ‘what-about-it?’ sort of toothy smile. Oikawa laughed under his breath.

“I thought I was too high maintenance for Yuuji-chan~”

“Eh, standards lower when you’re drunk,”

“Wow. I’m swooning, Yuuji-chan. I’ve been seduced!" He mimed swooning for show.

“So, is that a yes, or…” A few fingers slipped under Oikawa's waistband and a pleasant shiver glided low on Oikawa's hips. After a moment, though, Oikawa laughed again and ran his hand over the skin of Terushima's wandering wrist. Oikawa held the joint in place for a moment before shifting it back up to safer territory.

“I’m afraid not,” he decided.

Contrary to popular belief (thanks a lot, Makki and Mattsun) Oikawa didn't actually throw himself at anything that moved. The opposite, to be honest. He had only ever had two girlfriends, all the way back in his first and second years of high school. He had never slept with anyone. If he wanted to be poetic about it, he was ‘saving himself’ for someone specific. If he wanted to be practical about it, high school, and especially third year, had been an emotional rollercoaster between him and Iwa-chan. By the time it finished and they had their confrontation, Oikawa knew he wouldn't be able to summon the interest to be serious with someone else.

Anyone else would feel like they were there to fill the space while Oikawa waited for the ball to drop: either he and Iwa-chan would be soulmates or Iwa-chan would find his soulmate in someone else. To date while waiting for someone else would feel like a betrayal on all sides. It wouldn’t have been fair to Iwa-chan, to himself, or to his date.

All that to say, Oikawa didn’t have much, or any, experience, and even less than that with a man (he had at least made out with his girlfriends). He had never considered dating one outside of Iwa-chan… but Terushima was handsome enough, in a fun trickster sort of a way… At least, he had a confidence to him that attracted Oikawa. More than that, if Oikawa had been ‘saving himself’ for Hajime before, what exactly was he doing now? What was the point? What was he waiting for?

'Get laid, cut the umbilical cord with your Iwa-chan!'

Maybe that was better advice than Oikawa had given it credit for.

So when Terushima said, “Are you sure?”

Oikawa said, “Convince me,”

And as a result, a half-naked Oikawa found himself hovering over Terushima and admitting to being a virgin.

“You’re kidding.”

Oikawa looked away. He would have blushed, but he was already too flushed from the kissing and groping as it was.

“Holy shit.” Terushima’s head dropped back into the pillows. “I didn’t sign up for… We’re friends, but I’m not looking for something special, Oikawa,”

“I know,” Oikawa replied, half affronted that Terushima seemed to think he couldn’t do casual, even if it was his first time.

“And you want this?”

“Yes,”

“Are you sure?” Even though the question was the same as the one Terushima had asked in the hall, he altered his tone to the point it sounded like the complete opposite. For all that could be said about Terushima, it was doubtless that he cared, and with a greater depth than Oikawa thought Terushima knew how to deal with.

So Oikawa kissed him, wet and dirty and the complete opposite of ‘special.' Terushima groaned and let Oikawa settle between his legs, one hand embarking on an uncoordinated search for the drawer of his side table. Terushima banged it open and managed to extract a medium sized white tube and a packet of wrappers.

“Damn. And I was going to try to convince you to bottom.” Terushima shook his head and looked at a wide-eyed Oikawa while holding up his prizes and spreading his own legs further apart. “So, I’m assuming you know how these work?”

The next morning, Oikawa woke up in Yuuji’s bed and tried not to let his memories mortify him as he collected his clothes and slipped back into his own room.

Alone in his room, Oikawa asked himself if he would have done it if he had had nothing to drink last night. Yes? He hadn’t been drunk so much as lightheaded. Did that make it a good decision? He didn't know. Did he regret it?… No… Maybe? Nothing about it had been bad. Plus, while he still thought he was more attracted to women, this proved Iwa-chan wasn’t some sort of end-all-be-all exception. Maybe the ‘umbilical cord’ (it wasn’t an umbilical cord, thank you, it was something with a bit more equal footing, just a tether or a cable) wasn’t entirely severed, but it didn’t feel like it was tugging quite so hard... that or the tugs had transformed from periodical reminders to a subtle but unyielding pull.

Chapter Text

Two months after Oikawa slept with Yuuji for the first (and last) time, classes let off for a long weekend due to a federal holiday. In one of his and Iwa-chan's usual facetime conversations, Oikawa made a decision. He couldn’t live this unsustainable are-they/aren’t-they state of being for much longer. He needed to do something.

“Does Iwa-chan have any plans for the break?”

“No…" Iwa-chan tilted out of the screen to grab a drink, "...kind of. Why?” Perfect.

“Because I’m coming over! To visit,”

“What?" he pulled the water bottle away from his mouth, "Don’t invite yourself places, Shittykawa!”

“You said you don’t have any plans! Not surprising, what would Iwa-chan do without me?” He put his hand to his heart.

“... I’m hanging up,”

“Iwa-chaaan, I’m sorry. I’m sure you have a very deep and interesting social life,” Oikawa lied.

“For your information, a friend of Akaashi’s is coming over this weekend.” Even more perfect. Akaashi would be busy and Oikawa could have Iwaizumi all to himself to figure things out.

“So you’re free!”

“No, I am not, asshole. We’re all getting together,”

“Ugh, why?”

“I’m his best friend’s soulmate. You tell me.”

Oikawa sighed. Then he groaned. Then he slumped to the side out of the view of the camera, lying on his living room couch. A distorted sigh fell through Oikawa's headphones.

“Fine, whatever. It’d be cool to have you there. You’re my best friend, Akaashi should get to know you better.” Something in Oikawa unwound a bit at the continued use of Akaashi Keiji’s family name rather than his given one. “And I guess Bokuto wouldn’t complain,”

Oikawa perked up.

“Bokuto? Top six university ace in the nation Bokuto?”

Sure, nowadays Oikawa knew-- had set for-- better. He even played on a team with the second-best university ace. But every spiker was different, even the best ones. He had watched a few of Bokuto’s matches and found he ace’s almost erratic play style intriguing. He didn’t seem like someone who thought too much about what he did, often slamming the ball like some sort of preppy version of Mad Dog-chan. Yet he pulled off wipes and rebounds and cut-shots with an almost six sense for how to best avoid enemy blockers. He would love the opportunity to set a few balls for such an interesting spiker.

“That’s him,”

“Now I have to go, Iwa-chan! It’s for the love of volleyball! You should round up enough people for a game!” Iwa-chan rolled his eyes. Oikawa shuffled onto his knees to better make his point when Yuuji’s head ducked in from around the corner.

“Are you getting together a volleyball game outside the team? Count me in! I haven’t played in forever!”

This time Oikawa rolled his eyes.

“It’s over the long weekend at a school two hours away,”

“I don’t have any plans,”

“Yuuji-cha--”

“Is that one of your roommates?” Iwa-chan cut in over the chat.

“Yes, the most annoying one,” Oikawa replied while making direct eye contact with Yuuji. Despite hearing only Oikawa's side of the conversation, he smirked.

“Oh, good, you have a lot in common." Rude!

“-- Iwa-chan! Mean, Mean, Iwa-ch--”

“If he’s serious he should come. Bokuto’s bringing a friend of his too, so if you bring someone that’s enough for a three-on-three. And I still have that empty room. Are you close? You two could share it, or if not he could share with Bokuto’s friend,”

As hard as he tried, Oikawa couldn’t dispel the blush he knew rose in his features from the question thrown in there. Instead of addressing it, he turned to Yuuji. He should have been even harder to face, but Yuuji had been so casual about the whole thing that it made Oikawa calmer about it in turn. Even the morning after, he only complained that ‘Tooru-chan’ hadn’t even made him breakfast like a proper lover, to which Oikawa had managed to get out that they weren’t proper lovers, to which Yuuji laughed, agreed, and let the subject drop.

“Against my much better judgment and wise advice, Iwa-chan says you can come, Yuuji-chan,”

“Awesome!” Yuuji turned his attention to the laptop on Oikawa’s lap. “See you there, Iwa-chan-san!” he shouted before disappearing back into his room.

“Did he call me Iwa-chan? What the fuck, Oikawa? Stop teaching people your bad habits,”

“What!? Why would you think that’s my fault!? And how is that a bad habit!? Mean! Mean!”

…:::*:::...

A few days later, Oikawa and Yuuji arrived on Iwa-chan’s campus with their bags slung over their shoulders and the noon sun looming overhead.

“Nice joint.” Yuuji leaned forward with his hands in his pockets as he followed Oikawa to Iwa-chan’s student housing. As they climbed the stairs, Yuuji’s eyes darted to Oikawa. “So… are you going to confess? Did you bring your rose calligraphy paper?”

“Yuuji-chan, you are not cute.” He meant for it to come out airy and playful and completely not bitter and forced…. Yuuji’s look gave him a pretty good idea of which happened. Yuuji soldiered on, though.

“So you’ve been considering the side hoe thing, then.” They made it up to the third-floor landing.

“Whatever you think you’re doing or trying to goad me for, it’s not working. It's actually kind of pathetic.” Oikawa dropped the attempt at bubbliness. He found it more difficult to keep it up with Yuuji these days. He put deliberate effort into not thinking about why that was.

Yuuji shrugged, lifting his palms.

“I don’t do subtle. You should confess. There’s no way you can be that close to someone for that long and in love with them and not have it get out one day. Better to make it on your own time. And no time like the present, yadda yadda,”

Oikawa stopped them at the mid-way point of the hall. He could see Iwa-chan’s door at the end and he wanted to make sure they wouldn't be overheard.

“You want to do this now, Yuuji-chan? We literally had a whole train ride together,”

“Maybe I was hoping to surprise you into doing it,”

“You underestimate me. For both things. I am excellent at keeping secrets.” He waved a hand in the air, trying to get back into his cheerful bubbliness.

“Even from your best friend?” Yuuji waggled his eyebrows.

“I can’t believe you’re bringing this up now. You know I don’t remember asking--”

“Oikawa-san?” Oikawa turned to find none other than Akaashi Keiji reaching the top of the stairs. His blue t-shirt two sizes too big and tucked into mom jeans didn't stop him from looking like he had stepped off of some photoshoot. Maybe for the rumpled-chic look. Not fair. Oikawa's natural charms stretched far, of course, but he also spent a fair amount of effort keeping his skin smooth and his hair soft and his closet up to date. He could already tell Akaashi did none of that (his hair didn’t even look brushed).

Iwa-chan did always complain about how long Oikawa’s beauty routine took. Looked like he didn’t have to worry about that with Akaashi-- all the pros and none of the cons. Iwa-chan and Akaashi were just made for each other, weren’t they?

“Aka-chan! How are you? What are you doing out here?”

“Good, thank you.” He lifted his hand, holding long pieces of bulky black cloth that Oikawa recognized as long knee pads. “Bokuto ‘forgot’ his knee pads in my dormitory. I was retrieving them.” The clear amusement in the explanation made the corners of his mouth twitch.

“Forgot?” He made the air quotations that Akaashi had implied.

“Hmm. An attempt to get me out of the house so that he could give Iwaizumi some strange version of a shovel talk, no doubt,”

“How nice of him.” It wasn’t nice. Had Akaashi told Bokuto something that Iwa-chan hadn’t told Oikawa?

“That’s one way to put it. Bokuto can be… over-enthusiastic. I’m certain any threat he tried to convey has devolved into spiking strategies and a promise of lifelong friendship,”

“When a man like you is on the line? I doubt it.” Yuuji chose that moment to butt into the conversation with a flirty wink. Akaashi responded to the comment with a deadpan stare so incredible and expressive in its blankness that Oikawa almost admired it.

“Iwaizumi said you were bringing a friend.” He turned back to Oikawa without acknowledging Yuuji any further, and if he were in any other company Oikawa would laugh and tease Yuuji about how relentlessly he had been rejected. Of course, such was to be expected when you hit on somebody that you knew had a soulmate. Idiot.

“Aka-chan, this is Yuuji-chan. Yuuji-chan, Aka-chan,” he gestured. It pleased him to see Akaashi’s mouth twitch in a bit of displeasure at the useless and a bit rude introductions. Though Oikawa noticed Akaashi had given up on trying to get Oikawa to call him anything different. He couldn't let him build up an immunity. Oikawa should find an excuse to move on to ‘Keiji-chan.’

“Akaashi,” Akaashi nodded at Yuuji. “Nice to meet you,”

“And I’m Terushima Yuuji. It’s very nice to meet you,”

“Hmmm. Thank you, Terushima-kun,”

“Just Terushima, please… Or Yuuji, if you want, babe,”

“Terushima.” Akaashi acknowledged before turning back to Oikawa. “I am sure Bokuto has had enough time by now. Please come inside.” Akaashi turned and led them down the hall. He knocked once on the door and opened it without awaiting a reply.

“I found your knee pads, Bokuto. And I also found Oikawa-san and his friend outside,” Akaashi announced while they all exchanged their shoes for slippers.

A white-haired head popped up from the couch, the attached body kneeling backward to face them. Bokuto Koutarou looked about the same as he did in videos of his games, though Oikawa guessed this was what that disaster of a hairstyle looked like before all the jumping and running and sweating. It… wasn’t that much less of a disaster. And the brighter shade of white made Oikawa guess it had been re-dyed within the past month. Still, when Bokuto put his hands on the back of the sofa so he could lift himself over it, no one could deny those arms belonged to a powerful spiker. Oikawa’s fingers twitched with anticipation.

Then another face appeared beside Bokuto at a lower level. He dyed his hair inverted to how Mad Dog used to wear his, with blond racing stripes along the side of dark hair. A golden blond tuft in the front drew attention to the spiked up style. It took a moment, but Oikawa recognized the boy (man, he supposed, but he looked so young).

“You’re Karasuno’s libero!” He near accused.

“Karasuno?” Yuuji repeated behind him.

“Play nice, Crappykawa,” another voice spoke up from further into the house before the libero could say anything in his defense. Iwa-chan appeared from the arch of the kitchen on the left, carrying a few water bottles in one arm. The warmth of Iwa-chan’s company burst through Oikawa at a rate that surprised even himself. Something about the light in Iwa-chan’s eyes couldn’t be captured by a computer screen.

“Wow, Iwa-chan. I haven’t been here for a whole minute and you’re already being rude and very inaccurate. What a terrible host,” Oikawa managed past the pound of his heart.

“You want terrible?” A water bottle came sailing at Oikawa’s head, and he ducked out of the way with a squeal and hands over his hair. “Mean, Iwa-chan!”

Iwa-chan snorted and put the bottles on the coffee table.

“It’s good to see you, Crapykawa,”

“That sentence and that name don’t go together at all!”

Iwa-chan laughed with a little less restraint, and Oikawa watched the way his throat moved with it, the way his strong jaw parted as his lips opened half-way over a shining white smile-- no worse off for its rarity-- for a flash of a moment, the way his almost button nose scrunched up just so, and the way the movement of his cheeks pushed his sharp intelligent eyes up into half-crescents. Oikawa even found the lift of his straight eyebrows inexplicably cute. Was it any wonder all their kohai had had crushes on Iwa-chan (despite Oikawa’s best efforts to steal the attention)? Oikawa couldn’t help but laugh a little with him, even when Iwa-chan came up and gave Oikawa a pat on the shoulder that felt like more of a beating. Old habits, Oikawa supposed.

“I missed you too, Iwa-chan,” Oikawa said. Unlike Iwa-chan, though, Oikawa accompanied his words with a draping hug from behind because he was a good friend. Behind them, Yuuji and Akaashi went to join the duo on the sofa, Bokuto already squawking something at Akaashi.

With their heads pressed together, Oikawa could feel the rough thickness that characterized Iwa-chan’s hair, corse against the sensitive skin of Oikawa’s cheeks. It smelled like Iwa-chan’s cheap evergreen soap, which he used instead of shampoo, like some sort of heathen. Oikawa smiled.

“Oi! Get off me,” Iwa-chan demanded as he dragged them down a small hallway into one of the four rooms, each with key cards above the handle. The one he choose stood open, with bland gray bed sheets, stray weights and volleyballs, and shelf of more books than were probably strictly needed for classes (all non-fiction, of course, because Iwa-chan was actually a totally lame nerd/geek hybrid… Godzilla figurine sitting next to the books taken way into account).

Oikawa let his head drop lower, to nestle between Iwa-chan’s jaw and shoulders. Iwa-chan’s neck felt fiery hot against the skin of Oikawa’s forehead; running hot to Oikawa’s cold. Oikawa let out a breath and felt Iwa-chan shiver against him from his shoulders and down his back.

“Stop that,” Iwa-chan grunted as he led them both to the small twin bed. He gave it his back and working on disengaging Oikawa’s fingers from where Oikawa intertwined them against Iwa-chan’s stomach. Oikawa tightened them and felt the solid surface of Iwa-chan’s abdomen against his palms for a moment before Iwa-chan managed to pry his fingers apart. Oikawa fell backward onto the sheets, pulling himself back to rest against the wall the bed was pushed against.

“How have you been?” Iwa-chan joined him, slotting their sides together from shoulder to thigh, probably purely out of habit.

“I talked to you less than a week ago. Is Iwa-chan worried?” Oikawa tilted his head to lay it on Iwa-chan’s shoulder. Iwa-chan sighed in the sort of fond aggravation that Oikawa had long learned to read.

“No, you idiot. It’s called being polite. Then again, I don't think you've heard of it.” But Iwa-chan crossed his arms and looked away, which told Oikawa he had hit right on the head. Iwa-chan had always been such an easy read, even if he expressed all his emotions with some form of half-hearted anger. Oikawa’s cute little tsundere-chan.

“Of course, but I don’t do it because I wouldn’t want to overshadow Iwa-chan’s attempts,”

This time Iwa-chan elbowed him. Oikawa whined and they sat quietly for a minute.

“I know I said it last year, but it still feels strange, to not see you every day. To not have you bursting in through my door at weird times for dumb reasons--

"--Hey!--"

"--To not see you in class… for you to not be there,” Iwa-chan admitted, all the while refusing to make eye contact. Blood warmed Oikawa’s face in a dizzy rush.

“I still feel the same,” he admitted, not taking his eyes off Iwa-chan’s face and referring to a lot more than Iwa-chan said. It wasn’t fair that Iwa-chan’s modest blushes were more difficult to see on his brown skin compared to Oikawa's translucent complexion. Still, Oikawa decided to save Iwa-chan from the sentimental atmosphere he had created. That's what good friends did. “Of course, it’s no surprise Iwa-chan would miss me~. Who wouldn’t?”

“Shittykawa,”

“What! Why? I am stating true facts!”

“Ya, right. I must be some sort of masochist to miss this,”

“Iwa-chan is so mean to me when I clearly don’t deserve it at all. Why did I travel all this way just to be made fun of?”

“I thought you traveled all this way to toss to Bokuto. He’s ecstatic about it, by the way. Of our top five high school aces, I only ever meet Ushijima. It’s interesting to finally meet Bokuto. He’s different,”

“Not as much of a jerk, I bet,”

“Ushijima was not a jerk, Oikawa. He was just…”

“An arrogant bastard?”

Iwa-chan laughed, “Maybe a little,”

“Maybe a lot,” Oikawa huffed, crossing his arms.

“Could be worse. I heard he got into your university. He could have accepted,”

“Ugh, don’t remind me. The only thing about him that makes me happy is that he’s in America. That means he’s as far away from me as possible,”

“Remind me again in what way you don’t have a shitty personality?”

“I don’t know what you mean. That was completely pure and genuine,”

“Pft, ya, okay,”

“It was! I meant it with all my heart.” Oikawa placed a hand over his heart in a solemn vow. Iwa-chan snorted and Oikawa joined him. When it started to die down he lifted his head and caught Iwa-chan's eyes, alight with the greys and browns and hints of green that Oikawa had missed so much. Next thing he knew they started laughing while leaning into each other for no real reason. Iwa-chan’s deep laugh resonated through Oikawa’s bones until it felt like he was wrapped in it.

“You- you know, I- I think I belie- believe you,” Iwa-chan managed to force out. One of his hands reached out to steady himself, and it grabbed the wrist laying on Oikawa’s thigh. Oikawa’s laughter stuttered, his lungs trying to take in air instead as his heart skipped, refusing to account for how casual Iwa-chan intended the gesture. Their laughter died down and Oikawa took his opportunity. Throwing side-eyed glances at Iwa-chan, he twisted his wrist and slid it in Iwa-chan’s loose grip, intertwining their fingers where they still rested against Oikawa’s leg.

This was it. Oikawa had laid out his cards. How would Iwa-chan respond?

Iwa-chan looked at their hand and then up at Oikawa. His face relaxed of its usual anger, eyes half-lidded and soft but focused. The smallest hint of a smile still clung to the corner of his lips. Oikawa met Iwa-chan’s gaze from under his own lashes with as much innocence as he could muster. Iwa-chan snorted and mumbled something about ‘pure and genuine,’ but still brought up his other hand to brush against Oikawa’s cheek before resting on the back of Oikawa’s neck, tilting his head in. Callouses brushed over Oikawa’s skin, adding a teasing roughness to the otherwise gentle touch.

Mere centimeters separated them now, and Iwa-chan’s eyes focused with intent on watching the breathy movements of Oikawa’s parted lips. Oikawa wasn’t even sure Iwa-chan knew what Iwa-chan was feeling in that moment because in his eyes and the shape of his brow Oikawa could see too many emotions to count: want, security, tenderness, uncertainty, vulnerability… fear.

All reassuring in their own ironic way. It meant Iwa-chan knew he was making a conscious decision here, one he put thought into. Oikawa couldn’t help that his head bucked forward a bit, their lips so close that he felt the static heat radiating from Hajime’s.

“Hajime…” Oikawa whispered against Hajime’s hot skin.

He wished he hadn’t.

That word must have broken the spell, because Hajime’s eyes snapped back up to meet his in wide-eyed alarm before jerking backward, disengaging entirely as his hand left Oikawa’s neck and his fingers disappeared from Oikawa’s grip. In the first second, Oikawa’s face followed him forward as if magnetized before Oikawa caught himself and leaned back again, disappointment and confusion heavy in his heart. He thought... that had felt so much like a choice...

“We should go back to Akaashi and the others,” Iwa-chan ‘explained’, turning away and standing before Oikawa could say anything. Something caught in Oikawa’s throat. It had to mean something that Iwa-chan thought of Akaashi right after pulling away from almost kissing Oikawa, right? What was that? A mistake? Iwa-chan getting caught in the moment? What reason did he have to stop when Oikawa gave him all the signals to go unless he wasn't sure of his decision? Did knowing that it was a hard choice for Iwa-chan, that Oikawa had a chance, make Oikawa feel better or worse? “Let’s go,”

Iwa-chan’s voice sounded… Oikawa didn’t know, exactly, which hoisted a red flag. Oikawa thought he could pick out the emotion behind any minor inflection of Iwa-chan’s, but this one sounded off. Then it hit him; it reminded him of the sound of Iwa-chan’s voice after that night three years back. Something… bitter.

What did it mean? Oikawa hadn't pulled away this time. Iwa-chan made the decision.

Oikawa stood and followed Iwa-chan to the door. He passed him in the hallway, still so caught up in his mystery that he almost jumped when he felt Iwa-chan’s hand guide Oikawa forward from the small of his back. Heat rushed down his spine, gathering in his stomach and burning Oikawa’s skin where Iwa-chan’s palm rested, separated only by a thin blue cloth. Why would Iwa-chan do that? After pulling away from a kiss? Oikawa wasn’t sure he could take all this emotional see-sawing.

"Iwa-chan?" His voice came out dry. He coughed to disguise it.

"I don't think we should be putting ourselves in this position right now," Iwa-chan responded without looking at him. "Between y-our soulmates and your feelings... I can't play this game, Oikawa. Not with you,"

Oikawa tried to swallow. No luck, still dry. Their soulmates but Oikawa's feelings. Okay. Okay. Still, he said ‘right now.’ ‘Right now’ implied a chance.

"I get it." He waved a hand. "Soulmate's are important."

But... not so important Oikawa couldn't compete.

He could work with that.